The Fremantle Dockers edged out the Melbourne Demons by just four points (59-55) in the opening round of the third season of AFLW.
“If you were in the room, it would have given you goosebumps.”
Fremantle skipper Ebony Antonio emphasised coach Trent Cooper’s three-quarter time speech that touched on the long-awaited debut of Kiara ‘Turbo’ Bowers, was indeed one for the ages.
Marquee player Bowers, who has been sidelined due to injury for 30 months, donned the purple and white for the first time in an amazing feel-good moment, and in doing so went on to help will her side over the line in a heated contest by four points.
Her game was one to remember, as she kicked an important final term goal, never stopped chasing and in the words of the skipper “there’ll be a few sore demons girls” thanks to her mountain of tackling pressure.
Cranbourne’s Casey Fields saw home side Melbourne host the Dockers in a brilliant display of ferocious footy on Sunday, highlighted by momentum swings, high scoring - and high temperatures.
The women from the west were triumphant in the oppressive conditions. Antonio, who played much of the game in the unfamiliar forward half of the ground, didn’t seem too phased by the heat, which topped out at 38 degrees.
“We’re from Perth, so we train in this all year!”
“Obviously it can affect you somehow, but we are used to it by now.”
New coach Cooper was pleased with the resolve of his team, despite some patches where the opposition managed multiple unanswered goals and were first to the ball in the middle.
“I wouldn’t say the third [quarter] went totally to plan, but we do want to be a high scoring team. We were still confident at three-quarter time; it was great that the girls had the belief to do it.
“We got beaten in the clearances four to eleven for the quarter, if we did that again we were going to get beaten. We changed that up.”
For the Demons, who scored an impressive 55 points in their first match under new captain Elise O’Dea, it was a gallant effort that went ultimately unrewarded.
O’Dea, one of Melbourne’s best, was circumspect in defeat, but paid tribute to the fightback by her team.
“I thought everyone played their role, but we just didn’t play it for long enough.
“I thought our third quarter showed what we were capable of. It’s just about doing that for four quarters.”
She was also impressed by each of the new faces in her side
“I thought all five of them were trademark teammates today.”
For Melbourne coach Mick Stinear, two of those five players were standouts.
“Tyla Hanks. Just her composure around the footy and [she’s] our youngest out there. There was also Maddie Gay… she’s so clean around the ball.”
While the heat kept some fans away from the outer suburban setting, all who attended were treated to one of the greatest games in AFLW history, a consensus echoed by both teams’ captains and coaches, but perhaps best summed up by Antonio.
“Really remarkable to get a score like that, it was a good contest all day and I think the AFLW’s future is bright.”
Fremantle will take much heart out of their first win of 2019 - also their first ever win away from Western Australia - into their next clash with fellow round one victors and perennial grand finalists, Brisbane.
For Melbourne, playing the seven game regular season in a conference featuring both AFLW 2017 and 2018 premiers and the scary North Melbourne-Tasmania side, their next clash with Collingwood looms as a must win to keep real hopes for a finals berth alive.